Charting a Course for Our Future

Heather O’Sullivan

Wednesday, March 20 2019

Now that the excitement over last month’s press release about restoring ferry sailings has died down, BC Ferries has made it clear that a full restoration of our 2014 schedule is not in the cards right now. 

They have provided two options for the community’s consideration (click here for those options). 

Option 1 would restore early morning service on weekdays, relieving some of the daily commuter congestion, providing more flexibility for shift workers, and once again allowing islanders to make the first Departure Bay ferry to Vancouver. 

Option 2 would see the closing of the mid-evening gap which creates frustration for many families, and the last evening sailing would return to 11:30 instead of 11:00 – again only on weekdays. The Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) is creating an online and paper survey to gauge public opinion on this undeniably important decision.

But before you grab a pencil or click that link, please think for a few minutes about where we’ve been and where we want to go. The 2014 cuts and the 2015 rearrangement of the shortened schedule were devastating for our island. 

The loss of our earliest sailing led directly to people having to choose between their jobs and their homes. 

People left - working people, families, folks that were real contributors to our island economy - forced out by the changes. The most recent census data reflects this – in 2016, Gabriola had a basically level population with a median/average age rising out of proportion to the rest of BC. 

Not all the fault of the service cuts, but they sure didn’t help.

It’s possible that you feel that now those people are gone, we shouldn’t worry about the early sailing because the ones who really couldn’t cope are now living elsewhere. 

If that’s how you feel, I urge you to take a second look.

As a ferry-dependent community, we are facing a stark choice yet again. 

On the face of it, a simple choice. But consider the context. 

In about three years we will be moving to a two boat system. 

If we choose now to reinstate our early sailing then there’s no reason to expect that it will be taken away when additional capacity is added. 

But if we don’t act now to bring back the early sailing then there will be no motivation for BC Ferries to add it later, and in fact there will be a disincentive as they will in all likelihood be looking to control labour costs by not extending our service hours. 

On the other hand, once two vessels are servicing our route, service gaps will pretty much by definition be minimized.

So here’s my ask. And I’m not asking as a FAC member, but as a long-time ferry activist and someone who is passionate about the health of this community. 

When you’re making your choice about which option to support, please consider the long view. Consider that restoring the early morning sailings will restore a measure of opportunity to Gabriola. Consider balancing what you may want against what our island needs. 

And please, take your time with this decision – think carefully. 

We are charting a course for our future.